Outstanding New Principal, Finalists, and School Recipients

The outstanding new principals recognized for 2021

2021 Outstanding New Principal 

 Alfonso G. Smith
Lewis High School, Region 3

Alfonso G. SmithIn his first few months, Alfonso began his tenure as principal of Robert E. Lee High School, then pivoted into a role as principal of John R. Lewis High School. Regardless of the name on the building, Alfonso’s focus has been to develop a “Culture of Excellence” among his students, staff, and community. Already, Alfonso has led his community through a worldwide pandemic, a historic school name change, and a transition to virtual learning. As communicated by one of his teachers, “While he has many strengths, his ability to build relationships grounded in respect and empathy stand out. Mr. Smith is approachable, charismatic, perceptive and walks alongside his staff to support the students of John R. Lewis High School.”

2021 Outstanding New Principal Finalist

Jamie S. Lane
Oakton High School, Region 1

jamie laneSince Jamie’s arrival at Oakton, she has demonstrated herself to be an incredibly supportive leader for the Oakton High School community. She is willing and excited to work alongside the students, regularly meeting with various student groups. Because of her patience, positivity, and student-first mentality, Jamie has gained the trust and respect of the student body in working towards the school’s improvement goals, one of which is prioritizing an inclusive learning and community environment for staff and students. She has inspired our student groups to adopt equity as one of their central tenets and advisers of our leadership and journalism classes have noticed a positive difference in the way the students interact. Ms. Lane has brought Oakton High School direction, leadership, empathy, goals, and strong desire for ALL students to succeed.

2021 Outstanding New Principal Finalist

Diane Henry Leipzig
Canterbury Woods Elementary School, Region 5

Diane Henry LeipzigDiane joyfully leads Canterbury Woods Elementary with infectious enthusiasm. She delights in students, writing songs or donning costumes to make them smile. Diane believes in teachers, promoting teacher leadership and authentic collaboration. A lead learner, she leverages expertise in assessment and literacy to build a schoolwide MTSS (Multi-tiered Systems of Support) approach and continually seeks knowledge to serve students who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. She is a transparent decision-maker who acts on feedback from diverse voices to make CWES a more welcoming and equitable place. A gifted communicator, Diane has summoned unity and strength throughout the pandemic, reminding all that school is not a place. When 2020 brought one unexpected challenge after another, parents reminded each other to “Keep calm and wait for Dr. L.”

2021 Outstanding New Principal Finalist

Kerry L. Peerman
Halley Elementary School, Region 4

Kerry L. PeermanKerry has been an advocate and champion of Halley Elementary from the moment she entered the building. She is an instructional leader who is passionate about developing a collaborative school culture focused on the collective responsibility of all students. She implemented a professional learning community structure with her team, incorporating changes to accommodate common planning, with a focus on collaboration. Kerry believes in being visible, accessible, and getting to know students and staff as individuals. She prioritizes being present and responsive to all. Mrs. Peerman is a difference-maker who is committed to making an impact in the lives of her students. She understands that schools are responsible for building academic excellence and being safe spaces of joy and hope.

2021 Outstanding New Principal Finalist

Nicholas A. Zapadka
Freedom Hill Elementary School, Region 2

Nicholas A. ZapadkaNick believes that his school’s success is based on a unique interplay between responsive instruction, a caring, multicultural community, and collective leadership. As principal of Freedom Hill, Nick has fostered these traits and developed a community in which students, staff, and parents love to learn and know that their experiences are valued. On a typical day, you might find Nick delivering “Virtually Unstoppable” signs to community homes, supporting his equity team’s efforts to bring new understandings to staff, modeling his role as “lead learner” by facilitating a concurrent technology meeting, or simply enjoying some time on the playground with students. Nick’s infectious hope for his school is captured in their theme this unusual year – “Near or Far: Always Learning Together!”

2021 Outstanding New Principal - School Recipients

  • Bonnie Brae Elementary School
    • Jason Skerker
  • Bren Mar Park Elementary School
    • Elizabeth (C.E.) Williams
  • Canterbury Woods Elementary School
    • Diane Leipzig
  • Churchill Road Elementary School
    • Cherith Pierson
  • Daniels Run Elementary School
    • Christopher Smith
  • Dranesville Elementary School
    • Jamie Gadley
  • Floris Elementary School
    • Holly Walker
  • Forestdale Elementary School
    • Jennifer Cunneen
  • Forestville Elementary School
    • Donald Washington
  • Freedom Hill Elementary School
    • Nicholas Zapadka
  • Greenbriar East Elementary School
    • Dave Pietzman
  • Greenbriar West Elementary School
    • Andrew Blount
  • Gunston Elementary School
    • Kristen Rucinski
  • Halley Elementary School
    • Kerry Peerman
  • Haycock Elementary School
    • Elizabeth Beaty
  • Hutchison Elementary School
    • Sarah Aiello
  • Kilmer Center
    • Hoang Nguyen
  • Lane Elementary School
    • Christine Prahl
  • Lees Corner Elementary School
    • VaRonica Sloan
  • Lemon Road Elementary School
    • Ashley Castillo
  • Lewis High School
    • Alfonso Smith
  • Longfellow Middle School
    • Jim Patrick
  • Oakton High School
    • Jamie Lane
  • Olde Creek Elementary School
    • Melissa Miller
  • Robinson Secondary School
    • Tracey Phillips
  • Saratoga Elementary School
    • Erica Loesch
  • Sleepy Hollow Elementary School
    • Mattie Fallen
  • South County Middle School
    • Peter Kownacki
  • Timber Lane Elementary School
    • Benjamin Chiet
  • Woodburn School for the Fine & Communicative Arts
    • Katy Richman

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